My sweet baby girl is 5 days old, and I want to make sure I write down my birth story with her while it’s still fresh in my mind, even though I’ll be posting this later on. Birth and labor are something that no one really talks about, and I want to open up the conversation. I know personally, to me, it was such a mystery what happened in that hospital room - you go in pregnant and between 10 and 20 hours later you leave with a little human. Crazy!
OKAY, so here are the questions I had; what happens in there? What do contractions feel like? What does recovering from a tear look like? Is it weird having so many people all up in your business down there? What does pushing a baby out of you REALLY feel like? Are contractions THAT bad? So, here are some answers and my story of birthing the most beautiful angel human of a baby - my Pfeiffer Grey.
I had been having really really mild contractions that felt like period pain/cramps since 38 weeks, but on Friday night (the 21st) Kyle and I went for a quick date night for dumplings, and I felt a little off while we were at dinner. I wasn’t having full on contractions or any real pain, but just felt like Pfeif was on her way soon. Mind you, we had no idea we were having a baby girl, and were keeping the gender a surprise until she made her way. That night we went to bed and I woke up at 1:00AM with some mildly painful contractions and was up until 4:30AM with them. My contractions felt like achy period pain in my lower belly that would come and go with no real rhythm or rhyme. I was getting a little restless about when she was coming, since at my 39 week appointment I was only dilated 1 cm, so I knew that since I felt “off",” that maybe I could help her along and get things moving. I was able to sleep from 5:00-ish to 8:30 AM, and then I told Kyle to go get me a fresh pineapple, I made some raspberry leaf tea, and bounced on my workout ball the majority of the day. Kyle and I also went on a mile walk, and I was having contractions about every half hour on and off, but nothing to where I thought I needed to go into the hospital. I was getting a little frustrated with how random and sporadic they were, and thought for sure she was coming after Christmas and that this would last for days. BUT THEN, 6:00 PM hit, and they started getting a little more intense (I had to breathe a little deeper using my yoga breath through these) and came about every 10 min. They were still pretty irregular (I totally thought that they would be exactly 10 min apart etc and keep being that way until she came) so I just wasn’t sure if I was really in labor yet. News flash, I totally was.
My contractions were still getting stronger and more intense, and Kyle was timing them and they were coming about 5-7 min a part, but still a little sporadic on how long they lasted. We decided to try and go to bed around midnight, and laying down through a few those was AWFUL. I told Kyle there was NO WAY I was going to be able to sleep. So, we called the doctor on call and to be honest, he wasn’t very helpful. He just said to go in to get checked to see how far along I was. This made me not want to go in, since he really just shrugged it off. So, we waited a little while longer, and then I had a couple REALLY intense ones, and Kyle said YEP, WE’RE GOING IN. I hopped in the shower quick, had Kyle pack up the car and get it started, and tried to throw on some makeup since we were having a birth photographer and I wanted to look halfway decent. It took me a solid half hour to put mascara and some concealer on because I had to stop and breathe heavily through the contractions that were coming. When we finally got in the car, I just remember looking at Kyle, giving him a quick kiss and saying, “We’re going to bring a baby home when we come back here!”
When we got to the hospital, we checked in and I got checked and I was 3 cm. It was the real thing! So, they walked me to the room we’d be delivering in (SLOWLY) and they said they needed to get an IV in me right away. I wasn’t too fond of this, because I didn’t want to be tied down, but since my contractions were getting stronger and stronger, I said sure, just do it, just in case I wanted to get any type of medication quickly. So, if you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of needles (I tend to pass out) and I had heard that the IV is actually worse than some of the labor stuff. THIS WAS TRUE. I’m not sure if my nurse was nervous because I let her know I pass out easily, or if she was tired, but she blew two veins in my left hand and it ended up taking an hour to actually put the IV in since I had to take breaks since I felt light headed from her digging around in my hand and forearm. Since it took so long, I had dilated some more and I asked for something to take the edge off and they gave me a drip of fentanyl, which basically feels like the contractions aren’t as strong, but you can still feel everything. The drip only helped for about 3-4 contractions, which was about a half hour. There were a few times where I felt super nauseous, but I was so thankful I never threw up. That was the ONE THING I didn’t want to happen. I also started getting the shakes. Like, uncontrollable body shaking and this happened the entire labor process. I was checked again and was almost 6 cm, and I had told myself I wanted to at least get to 6cm. When going into labor, I wanted to keep an open mind and try to do things naturally. I was told a long time ago from a nurse in college that I would never be able to make it through the pain of childbirth because I pass out from pain, so I wanted to try my hardest to get to 6 cm dilated and then make the choice if I could keep going naturally, or get the epidural. SO, I labored just a bit longer and tried to go to the bathroom - but at this point just sitting down and standing up was giving me contractions that were incredibly painful, and since I had been lightheaded from trying to get the IV in, I was starting to feel pretty lightheaded in general whenever I had an intense contraction, and the pain had spread to my back as well as lower abdomen. At 6 cm, I asked for the epidural (I whispered to Kyle “Juice. I need the juice,”) and I was pretty thankful that I got one. No, it didn’t hurt, and nope, I didn’t even look at the needle to see how big it was. It felt like a slight pinch and took about a half hour to kick in. I still physically felt my stomach tightening, but couldn’t feel the intense pain I was feeling before. One weird thing though, was that my right leg was SO much more asleep than my left. So, I still felt SOME dull ache on my left side when a contraction came, but felt nothing on my right. The nurses told us to rest up a bit since I still had a ways to go, and ended up coming back in after about a half hour and gave me pitocin since the epidural slowed down my contractions just a bit. A little while later they broke my water since it hadn’t broken on it’s own to keep things going. Kyle and I got a bit of rest (barely) and then wrote in Pfeif’s baby book that we had brought along. I really didn’t get any rest in those two hours, and when they checked me again, I was at 8 cm! I think this is where I really felt like this whole thing was real since it was SO CLOSE to 10 cm. The nurses told me it would probably be another couple hours, but after 45 min, I told the nurse that I felt some serious pressure in my bottom, and she decided to check and BOOM, I was 10 cm!
In all the movies you see, when the girl starts pushing, the doctor is there ready to catch the baby. But in real life, the nurses are there coaching you the entire way until the head starts crowning. I never knew this. So, when my nurse was on the intercom/phone telling the other nurses/doctor or whoever she was talking to that it would be a while because this was my first baby (I had NO idea that pushing for first time mom’s usually takes 1-2 HOURS) I was so confused. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but I remember feeling a LOT of it. I felt the “ring of fire” - where your vjay stretches to the max while baby is coming out - and I felt the intense pressure of her moving down the birth canal and out of me. I think my epidural was wearing off, and that’s why I was feeling more than expected (like, I got the epidural, I thought I was going to be completely numb.) I did about 6 big pushes over 15 min, and I remember Kyle holding my leg and coaching me through my breath, and the nurses giving me encouragement that she was almost out! And with one big last push, her entire body came out and there she was. I looked at Kyle and with tears streaming he told me it was a girl and I broke down as they laid her on my chest. She was crying and crying and they rubbed her off and I kept stroking her cheek saying “Hi my baby girl” over and over and Kyle was right there beside me crying saying how beautiful she was. He got to cut the cord and we got to spend a good hour and a half with her while they sewed me up from my second degree tear and just like that it was only us 3 in the room. It was the most surreal and amazing experience that I’ve ever been through. I still can’t believe that I birthed a tiny human and that I’m a mom. I remember sitting down in the wheelchair and they put her in my arms to move to our recovery room, and while I was being wheeled down the halls, I was so proud of my baby. The hospital was really empty when we were there, but I almost wish it would have been more full so I could show off that yes, I have a daughter and yes, I just gave birth. I felt like super woman.
SO, I wanted to answer some questions that I personally had but I’m sure more of you do, too.
What did contractions feel like? For me, I had been having mild contractions since 38 weeks, and I almost knew what to expect because I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions since 18 weeks. Braxton’s felt like my belly tightening, and when they started in my second trimester, it started in my right side, then moved to my lower belly closer to the third tri, and lastly took over my entire stomach and it would become rock hard and last anywhere from 30 to 90 sec my entire last 8 weeks of pregnancy. SO, I knew my stomach would be tightening, but I DID NOT know that contraction pain felt like period cramps. OK, a little bit more intense than period cramps, but the same type of pain. I was honestly super annoyed that they felt exactly like that, but I’m not sure why I didn’t expect them to. The last few contractions I felt, felt like the pain wrapped around my entire belly and back, and it made it hard to stand up or even stand at all.
What happens in the hospital room? Everyone has a different birth story, but I felt like my labor went by SO quickly. I had plans to play music, put fairy lights up, diffuse oils to calm the energy, but I literally didn’t have time for any of that, and that’s where a doula or third person would have came in handy to do all of that for me so I could focus on laboring. My labor was about 15 hours total, but I was in the hospital from 2AM and Pfeif was born at 9:04 AM. SO, about 7 hours of active labor and 15 min of pushing and she was here! I will say I was so surprised at how routine this was for all of the nurses and doctors. Of course, they do this daily and this is their job, but it was such an incredible first time experience for me, so when they all had a routine and knew exactly what they wanted to do and when, it just surprised me. I did feel incredibly safe, though, and am really glad I had a hospital birth specifically for the recovery.
What does recovery look like? This is where I was SO THANKFUL I was recovering in the hospital for the first few days. My nurses were absolutely amazing. And I mean, amazing. They made sure I was comfortable and made sure I had everything I needed (and more to take home) the entire time I was there. I know a lot of people say it’s annoying that they come check you every 2-3 hours, but each time they made sure I was stocked up with ice packs, pads, undies, and all the ice water I needed. So, if you’re pregnant and preparing for labor, just know that afterward there will be lots of blood. LOTS. And you’ll be sore and things will sting and you might have a hard time sitting for about a week or two. I had a second degree tear during labor, but to be honest I didn’t even notice it. And I barely noticed the doc sewing me up afterwards because I was holding Pfeif on my chest and just lost in the moment. I will say that the first few days of recovery are the worst, and it only gets better day by day.
What does it REALLY feel like to push a baby out? Since I had never done this before, I was just anticipating what this whole thing would feel like. Like, I have to push out a watermelon sized child that could be around 7 lbs, how much will this hurt? Well, I did have an epidural, so that helped with the pain, but I totally feel like my epidural was wearing off by the time she was on her way out. I definitely felt the pressure of her head in between my hips and sits bones and I felt everything - every push and every time she made her way just a little farther out. I wasn’t one of those people that felt absolutely nothing during that part. I was actually starting to feel my contractions towards the end as well. And it was such a relief when she came out all in one push!
Are you really THAT emotional when you’re recovering? If you are not a crier - get ready girlfriend. I’ve cried each and every day over SOMETHING, and the first few days home (leaving the hospital, I was sobbing in the backseat with Pfeif) are definitely a lot to process, so just little things would make those tears drop. My parents came to help for the first week, and I was so thankful and overwhelmed with gratitude for all of their help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and getting house projects done while they were here that I cried several times a day about it. The first time I took a bath, I remembered I had taken one about a week prior before Pfeif was born and my pregnant belly was sticking out of the water and Kyle was sitting in the bathroom with me and we were just talking about how excited we were to be parents, and it made me miss her being in my tummy, but I love her so much out here so thinking about all of that was overwhelming. I will say, I do miss being pregnant. It’s such an incredible time of you’re life where you’re literally creating a human being inside of you, and even though 9 months seems like a long time, it goes by so fast especially since you’re counting down the weeks. It’s a huge event and just like that, it’s over and done with and all of a sudden you don’t feel kicks inside of you (or all the aches and pains that come with it) and it’s crazy because I already feel like I’m forgetting what it felt like to be pregnant with her inside of me. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m excited for our next baby to feel all of those little things again (don’t worry, it won’t be for a while!)
This whole experience was something that you really can’t explain unless someone else has gone through it, but I hope I could explain it the best I could to give you a peek into what it’s all really like to go through giving birth to a tiny little angel human. I am super thankful for my story and the way it played out, and I hope this empowers more women to share their stories or at least document them to look back on.
Now, 8 weeks later (wow, this took a while to post!) I am still in awe that I gave birth and I am feeling more and more “normal.” It took about 6 weeks to really feel like myself again, and I’m a little sad because it’s hard to remember what her little kicks felt like inside me, or how big and round my belly was and all the aches and pains that come with pregnancy. It’s crazy how quickly all of that goes away and suddenly you’re a normal functioning human again. I am fully healed from birth, and have been given the go ahead to start working out and moving again. We are now JUST figuring out a routine after me getting mastitis and Pfeif getting RSV (it’s been a rough couple months) but we are doing amazingly and gearing up for our trip to Hawaii in April. I can’t wait to share one of my favorite places on earth with my little girl